With a rosier economic outlook, the state teachers union and other advocates are stepping up calls to boost teacher pay as Hawaii’s Legislature prepares to convene its annual session next week.

Gov. David Ige proposed restoring $100.2 million to the Department of Education’s base budget and adding $32.5 million to continue salary differentials to help recruit hard-to-staff teaching positions in his proposed supplemental budget.

Rep. Jeanne Kapela, vice chair of the House Education Committee, also plans to introduce two bills — one addressing so-called salary compression in which teachers are not paid according to years of experience and another proposing to remove the cap on salary classes so teachers are more incentivized to seek professional development.

“We are heading into session with a billion-dollar surplus, which makes a lot of us hopeful that we can pass legislation that supports teachers and our working families,” Kapela said. “We can absolutely afford to pay teachers more. We need to pay them what they’re worth.”

The impacts of the pandemic on students also feature prominently in new legislative proposals advanced by community groups.

The education advocacy group HawaiiKidsCAN is proposing to directly give families grants that will help support student learning from buying supplies to at-home learning kits and tutoring services.

“Parents and guardians have had to play a much more active role in their children’s education over the last few years through distance and hybrid learning,” HawaiiKidsCAN Executive Director David Miyashiro said. “Even as students returned to schools, parents can play a significant role in supporting learning.”

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